Darwin Comes to Town

Darwin Comes to Town

How the Urban Jungle Drives Evolution

Book - 2019 | Paperback edition.
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We are marching towards a future in which three-quarters of humans live in cities, more than half of the landmass of the planet is urbanized, and the rest is covered by farms,pasture, and plantations. Increasingly, as we become ever more city-centric, species and ecosystems crafted by millions of years of evolution teeter on the brink of extinction - or have already disappeared.

A growing band of 'urban ecologists' is beginning to realize that natural selection is not so easily stopped. They are finding that more and more plants and animals are adopting new ways of living in the seemingly hostile environments of asphalt and steel that we humans have created. Carrion crows in the Japanese city of Sendai, for example, have learned to use passing traffic to crack nuts for them; otters and bobcats, no longer persecuted by humans, are waiting at the New York City gates; superb fairy-wrens in Australia have evolved different mating structures for nesting in strips of vegetation along roads; while distinct populations of London underground mosquitoes have been fashioned by the varied tube line environments.

Menno Schilthuizen shows us that evolution can happen far more rapidly than Darwin had dared dream.

Publisher: London : Quercus, 2019.
Edition: Paperback edition.
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9781786481085
Branch Call Number: 577.56 Sch
Characteristics: 344 pages : illustrations


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Oct 02, 2019

"Pop science" environmental books are usually huge downers. Human impact on nature is indeed global, pervasive, and usually negative, and most books on the topic are appropriately pessimistic with an edge of "change your ways before it's too late!". Those that don't follow this pattern tend to be accused of pandering to the scientific illiterate or just not rigorous enough in their research. "Darwin Comes to Town," however, is optimistic without pandering and honest about the state of nature without the doom-and-gloom. This slim book (~250 pages) packs lots of animal research into the pages, although the animals aren't the flashy kind that get a lot of press - there are a lot of adapted blackbirds, spiders, and weeds. The topic of the book is how animals are evolving to fit into the ecosystem that humans have created, specifically into the urban landscape. The best summary I can give comes from the epilogue: "...biologically impoverished as they may be, these urban ecosystems are still exactly that: ecosystems, with real organisms, suspended in real food webs where real ecology and real evolution go on." An added bonus - the author is Dutch and his playful use of the English language makes this book both funny and educational.

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